To be or not to be? That is the question Wayland City is weighing at their next meeting Oct. 1, on whether to allow backyard chickens in the city.

Wayland Council has public weigh in on city chickens

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom

A meeting to hear public comments about allowing chickens to be raised in the City of Wayland had just as many participants as there were council members on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the Wayland Union Middle School cafeteria.

Because the issue had ruffled so many feathers, city manager Josh Eggleston moved the meeting to the school to provide room for what was thought to attract a flock.

Seven city residents provided their stance on allowing backyard chickens. Five were for it, one was against it and the seventh was on the fence.

Diane Smith of South Main Street said she was not opposed but not all for it either.

“I would want to see lots of rules and regulations if passed,” she said. “I live in a small area with not much space on either side and don’t want them close to me.

“I don’t think the noise and cackling would bother me but in the summer when it gets hot and humid, I wouldn’t want the smell that would come with it.”

Ryan Esposito of Forrest Street said when it comes to smell, it comes down to proper management and taking care of the coop.

“Proper composting of the feces eliminates the smell,” he said. “The complaints come down to residents who got into more than could handle and those are the one’s making a stink for those who want them and do take care of them.

“I hope some kind of balance can be met.”

Seth Schafer of Geneva Drive attended the meeting with his daughter. He said he has owned chickens in the past and currently keeps some at his parent’s home in Dorr.

“We’d like to see the proposal pass,” Schafer said. “My kids love them and they make really great pets—and then you get eggs from them which is a really big plus.

“They’re fun to have, have their own personalities and are not hard to take care of—like any animal you have to clean up after them so they don’t smell.

“We want chickens at our house so we don’t have to go back and forth to my parents.”

Nancy VandeVoord said as part of a science project, she raised chickens in the City of Kalamazoo before moving to Wayland 25 years ago.

She said not allowing chickens is limiting kids’ education and limiting the growth of the town since it is the millennials who are the growth population—the generation that is concerned with getting natural and fresh foods.

VandeVoord said of the towns that allow chickens, only 1-percent of the homes want chickens and inspections only take 15 minutes. With a population of 4,000, that’s only 40 homes in the City of Wayland.

“If you charge $50 for a permit that’s $2,000 for less than 800 minutes of inspections,” she said. “I don’t see why you’d have to worry about a financial strain.”

Jessica Esposito said such diseases as salmonella were a complaint she heard at a previous meeting.

“Research shows backyard flocks are less likely than commercial flocks for diseases and there are vaccines and testing to make them healthy,” she said. “Compost waste breaks down in three days and the smell goes away.

“With a bit of research and time to learn about them, chickens can be healthy and I agree with rules for coop size.”

Joe Dressler of Standish Drive said he’d like to see chickens legalized in the city.

“My kids have wanted them for years but we can’t have them.” He said “The biggest thing I’ve heard is the about the waste, but the feces is high in nitrogen and can be used for plants, gardens and there’s many ways to recycle it.

“It falls on the homeowner to be responsible and clean up after their pets just like a dog or cat—the cons don’t outweigh the pros.”

Kelle Tobolic of Locust Street was the lone voice against legalizing chickens.

“It’s a want rather than a need,” she said. “It’s not like we live in a metropolis where you have to drive miles to get organic eggs.

“I live in the city for a reason and if I wanted to have chickens I would live in the country.”

Tobolic also asked the council to think about recourse and what wants are next after chickens.

City Council members have been considering an ordinance allowing backyard chickens for more than a year after being approached by residents requesting them. An ordinance banning roosters, regulating how many chickens could be raised and providing setbacks and coop speculations was tabled until the new city manager Josh Eggleston could transition into his new job.

To come to a final decision, Eggleston held a meeting on Sept. 25, to hear a presentation by All Species Kinship of Battle Creek who recommended not following the trend of allowing chickens in the city due to a lack of awareness by urban farmers of poultry health conditions and proper containment.

On Monday, Oct. 1, a presentation on the benefits of raising urban chickens by Michigan State University Extension office will be at 6 p.m. prior to the regular council meeting at 7 p.m. At that time, the council may or may not make a final decision.

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